Almanac

News - January 27, 2010

Eleanor Boushey, a founding force in Portola Valley, dies at 97

by Dave Boyce

Eleanor Boushey, a member of Portola Valley's first Town Council, and a force in environmental protection, died Friday, Jan. 22, at The Sequoias retirement community, where she was a resident for 26 years. She was 97.

Ms. Boushey was the "town mother" and set a precedent, Nancy Lund, the town historian, told The Almanac. "There's been a very, very small number of years when we have not had a woman on the council," Ms. Lund said.

A memorial service is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, March 7, at Christ Episcopal Church at 815 Portola Road in Portola Valley.

Ms. Boushey's involvement with Portola Valley government began when she became secretary for the advisory group that organized the town's 1964 incorporation, according to an Almanac story from February 1977.

In setting up its first council, town leaders asked Homer Boushey, Eleanor's husband, to run for a seat, according to the story. He declined, she stepped up and won the seat and went on to serve 14 years, retiring in 1978.

She was once re-elected with a 97 percent majority, relatives said.

Her gender did present "some problems" on the council initially — she did not elaborate — but as she took a tougher line, the problems faded, Ms. Boushey told The Almanac in 1977.

"I think every city council should have at least one woman member," she said. "We see things a little differently, from a different point of view."

As a champion for the environment, she worked to designate Skyline Boulevard as a scenic highway, which happened in 1968, relatives said. Governors Pat Brown and Ronald Reagan appointed her to scenic highway advisory committees, relatives said.

She was an early member of the Committee for Green Foothills and an advocate for social justice, women's rights and nuclear disarmament. She once traveled to the Soviet Union with her husband as an "ambassador for peace," relatives said.

Eleanor Sprott Boyd was born in Los Angeles in 1912 and grew up in the mining town of Ray, Arizona, where she loved exploring the surrounding hills, relatives said.

After the family moved to Hillsborough in 1927, she enrolled at Stanford University and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She was "a disciplined student," relatives said.

She had two children in her first marriage to Guy Kimball Dyer. A widow, in 1941 she married Mr. Boushey, a former Stanford classmate and an officer in the Army Air Corps, and later the U.S. Air Force. The couple had three children while living the itinerant military life.

She was always active in the Episcopal church wherever she lived, and involved herself with her children in Cub and Boy scouts, and Brownies and Girl Scouts, relatives said.

In a letter to The Almanac upon her retirement from the council, she summed up her thoughts. "A town without places or reasons for people to come together, a town where people only sleep and spend all their real lives outside (the town) is a town without a soul," she said. "People need to have a feeling of belonging."

Ms. Boushey is survived by her younger brother, Robert Mitchell Boyd of San Rafael; sons Boyd Kimball Dyer of Santa Rosa, and Homer Astley Boushey Jr. of San Francisco; daughters Helen Boushey and Annette Boushey Holland of Northern California; and 15 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

Donations in her memory may be made to Oxfam America or to Save-the-Redwoods League.

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